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Housing Associations & the bedroom tax

Housing Associations & the bedroom tax

There cannot be a single housing association which is not aware of forthcoming changes to housing benefit and the impact of the bedroom tax. These changes will see reductions in housing benefit to tenants who are deemed to be over-occupying. New rules will set out:

- The number of bedrooms which will be eligible for benefit

- If a tenant has one spare bedroom, then 14% of their benefit will be removed

- If they have two or more spare bedrooms, then their benefit will be cut by 25%

The government say the intention is to encourage people to free up larger houses and to downsize.

Unfortunately people may wish to downsize but many landlords simply do not have smaller properties readily available. Many landlords are concerned this will result in increasing rent arrears.

To minimise the impact:

  1. Associations may revise their allocation policies. Prioritising internal transfer applicants wishing to downsize
  2. A 'bedroom' will not be defined in the legislation. Similarly there is nothing in the legislation which indicate the minimum size of a bedroom

This opens up two possibilities:

  1. A room not used as a bedroom should not be counted as a bedroom for housing benefit purposes
  2. Rooms of certain sizes could be left out of account 

Glasgow Advice Agency, an organisation which provides welfare rights and advice services in Glasgow, have recently obtained and published an opinion from Jonathan Mitchell, Q.C. The opinion is published via the website of Govan Law Centre here.

A lot hinges on the word "bedroom", which is not defined in the Regulations nor in the Act which allows the Regulations to be made. Accordingly it is one which must be determined by the local authority making the decision on the application for housing benefit

If a room is not being used as a bedroom, and there is clear evidence of use for other purposes, then can the local authority say it is a bedroom simply because it could be used as one?!

These arguments will no doubt be tested post April, with some interesting cases to follow. Challenges will need to be taken by tenants, but there is a growing list of organisations keen to help.

If any housing association requires further information, get in touch we are happy to help and are also able to liaise with colleagues acting for tenants.

housing associations & the bedroom tax

Written by : Super User

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